There are no road names here. No road names, no numbers, nothing to be able to tell where you are at any given moment besides landmarks. So how do we (Lauren and I) tell people how to get to our flat? How do we describe where we are to meet up with someone? We use landmarks.
I live by the vegetable market (takari bajaar), turn left, then right at the “Compact English School” sign.
Or, “I’ll meet you at the main chowk (intersection) at the top of Durbar Marg”.
Or, “get off the micro at Namaste supermarket. Cross the pedestrian bridge and walk 3-5 minutes”.
So, today is the third day of Tihar, the second big holiday during this holiday season. This one is the festival of lights, so the entire city is covered in Christmas lights, and feels a bit like a city at home during Christmas time. It also finally started to get cold today, so it officially feels like winter is coming!
Backing up to Friday, Lauren and I hosted a housewarming party for our apartment!
I made veg momos and Nutella momos for everyone, and we made mulled cider and invited all the (tenish) people who we know to come toast to our apartment. It was mostly americans, but also a few Nepalis who Lauren knows from her work.
Yesterday was the second day of Tihar, Kukur Tihar, which celebrates the dogs, who are supposed to be the messenger of the God of death. People put garlands and tika onto the dogs to acknowledge them and celebrate them. Seeing all of the street dogs prancing around with tika on their forheads was pretty cute, I’ve got to say! Some of them still have their tika on today, too.
Today was a busy day, though. It is one of the major days of Tihar, the one that celebrates Laxmi (the goddess of wealth), and Gai (cows), who also are a sign of prosperity and wealth.
We started the morning early, going to a meditation center (Brahma Kumari), where they were celebrating this third day through speakers, and dances and songs. We stayed for an hour or two, watching the various songs and dances.
At the end, they gave us tika and sweet cookies that are eaten on celebratory days—they were incredibly welcoming of us, which was incredibly sweet! They seemed quite happy to have foreigners there celebrating with them, and attending their ceremony.
So, that was the morning, pretty easy and calm. It gets more hectic once I decide to head down South, to Pulchowk, in Lalitpur. (For those who aren’t familiar, Kathmandu Valley is actually made up of three districts: Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Baktapur. When people say they live in Kathmandu, this many times will refer to the valley as a whole.)
Now, there are a few ways to get around this city. You can walk, like I do when I go to work, and hope that there are sidewalks most of the way. In this case it is a good idea to bring a scarf and glasses because the dust gets pretty bad, especially during rush hour in the morning and evening.
The next option is a taxi, which is good especially for the evening once the buses stop running, and if you are too lazy to negotiate the buses. This only costs around 200-300 Rupees ($2-3), so it is not too expensive of a splurge once in a while, but can add up if you decide to take them too much.
The last option is to take a bus. All of the buses go to and leave from one main area, called Ratna Park. It used to be an actual park that people could go to, but now the park is run down, and the term refers to the entire area around it.
The buses can be real buses, old with paint peeling, but bigger, but most of them, at least the ones I would take, are micros. They are little vans with sliding doors that can fit maybe ten people comfortably, many many more uncomfortably during rush hour!
There are young boys that stand in the door of the bus or the micro and shout incredibly quickly their destinations. Every once in a while I can make out the words, but usually it just sounds like they are shouting a random string of sounds.
The micros have numbers and writing on them, but this is all in Nepali, so your best bet is to go up to the bus-boy and ask if he goes where you’re headed, and he will usually nod or shake his head to let you know if it is the right one. A lot of them are pretty nice, and will also tell you when you get to where you are going. Gotta love being in a place where people take pity on foreigners.
The last option for getting around is to hitch a ride on a motorbike. Usually I walk too and from work, but my supervisor lives just ten minutes past me, and so sometimes he will give me a ride, since it is right on his way. That is pretty nice, because it saves me a walk, and gets me home before dark! It is quite something to get used to, though. The roads are usually pretty rough, and it involves quite a lot of weaving quickly through traffic or intersections while hanging on to the back of the bike. I’ve gotten pretty good at riding on the back of a bike, though, which is quite the handy skill to have!
So, this afternoon I took a micro down to Lalitpur.
I got off at Namaste Supermarket, and crossed the pedestrian brige nearby and walked 3-5 minutes and met up with Peter and Maneeshika (who I went hiking with), and Maneeshika’s Nepali friend, Dhana.
We went to go see a concert of the Joint Family International. They are this Nepali reggae band, and played right after the farmers market had left the location. It was yuppie. So yuppie. 90% expats, drinking farmers market wine and relaxing in the sun. It was pretty funny, but also a great thing to do with a beautiful holiday afternoon!
After that I took a micro back north to Kathmandu, and will go to see the lights later tonight! More on that in Part II.